Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Eric Sogard

With All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal signing a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, it appears that baseball’s offseason is truly about to begin.

Unlike years past under Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox will more than likely not be pursuing these kind of big splashes this winter. Instead, new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is tasked with trying to trim Boston’s payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, all while keeping the club relatively competitive heading into the 2020 season.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo composed a list of 46 free agents, three of whom played for the Sox in 2019, that Bloom and co. could go after to fill some holes in their roster.

One player that stuck out to me on that list was utility infielder Eric Sogard. Why? Because as Cotillo indicates, the 33-year-old veteran can play multiple positions, bats left-handed, and spent the last two months of the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Rays after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in late July.

That trade with Toronto took place while Bloom was still serving under general manager Erik Neander with the Rays, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Numbers wise, Sogard slashed .290/.353/.457 with a career-best 13 home runs and 40 RBI over 110 total games between Toronto and Tampa Bay in 2019. He also missed time in September due to a deep bone bruise on his right foot.

The scenario of the Sox signing Sogard probably only takes place if Brock Holt signs elsewhere as a free agent himself this winter, and since Holt put together an impressive 2019 campaign, he more than likely played himself out of the Sox’ price range.

Even if Sogard is considered a fit, the Red Sox also have other internal options to fill the hole at second base alongside Dustin Pedroia in 2020, including C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Marco Hernandez, and Tzu-Wei Lin to name a few.

Also, I failed to mention this earlier, but “Nerd Power” is a pretty good nickname, too.

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Becomes Second Shortstop Ever to Hit 30 Home Runs and 50 Doubles in Same Season

With his two-out double in the third inning of the Red Sox’ 7-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night, Xander Bogaerts made some history,  as he became just the second shortstop ever to mash 30 home runs and collect 50 two-baggers in the same season.

He also joined Sox legend David Ortiz as the only other player in franchise history to hit 30 homers and 50 doubles in the same season, 12 years after Ortiz became the first, per Red Sox Notes.

Alex Rodriguez first accomplished the feat in his age-20 season with the Seattle Mariners way back in 1996 and went on to finish second in American League Most Valuable Player voting that year.

Following Thursday’s win, Bogaerts is now slashing .304/.380/.560 to go along with those 31 long balls, 50 doubles, and 106 RBI, all of which are career-highs for the 26-year-old, through 141 games in 2019.

Bogaerts’ teammate and partner on the left side of the infield, Rafael Devers, notched his 50th two-bagger of the campaign this past Tuesday, meaning the two are the first pair of Red Sox players to hit 50 doubles in the same season. Pretty remarkable.

As things stand at the moment, it appears as though Boston will have four players finish in the top-10 in AL MVP voting, presumably in the order of Bogaerts, Devers, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez.

Brock Holt Starting at Third Base, Juan Centeno Catching Jhoulys Chacin as Red Sox Look to Avoid Sweep Against Clay Buchholz, Blue Jays

The Red Sox have lost five straight games and are one more loss away from getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. In order to prevent that from happening, they’ll have to get the best out of old friend and former Sox right-hander Clay Buccholz on Thursday night.

Since being traded from Boston to the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 2016, Buccholz has yet to pitch against the club he began his professional career with, but has made 26 total starts across three different organizations over three seasons, including eight for Toronto in 2019.

The 35-year-old owns a 5.31 ERA and .283 batting average against in 42 1/3 innings pitched over that span, but has looked better since returning from the injured list due to shoulder inflammation on August 25th, allowing a total of eight runs (seven earned) on 13 hits and nine walks over his last three outings and 17 2/3 innings of work.

Against Buccholz, third baseman Rafael Devers will get the night off for the Red Sox, while Brock Holt slides into the two-hole to make his second start of the year at the hot corner. This will also be the first time this season that the 31-year-old will hit as high as second in Boston’s lineup.

Behind the plate, it will be Juan Centeno making his first start in a Red Sox uniform to catch Jhoulys Chacin.

Centeno entered Wednesday’s loss as a defensive replacement for Christian Vazquez in the middle of the sixth inning and popped out to third in his lone plate appearance in the eighth.

Signed as a minor league free agent by Boston last November, the Puerto Rico native was part of the first round of September call-ups at the beginning of the month. He has never caught Chacin before in his career.

Speaking of Chacin, the 31-year-old hurler will be making his second start for the Sox after impressing with two scoreless frames against the New York Yankees last Friday and tossing a scoreless frame of relief in the same series on Sunday.

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind Chacin.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:07 PM EDT on NESN.

 

New York Mets’ Marcus Stroman Thought He May Have Been Headed to Red Sox Among Other Clubs, per Report

In case you missed it, the Toronto Blue Jays dealt right-hander Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets on Sunday in exchange for a pair of minor-league pitching prospects .

With that, reports broke out on Sunday that the former Blue Jay star caused some commotion within his own clubhouse and ‘bolted’ out of there, per The Athletic’s Blake Murphy.

Earlier Monday, The New York Post’s Mike Puma reported why Stroman may have reacted that way, saying that he was disappointed that he wasn’t traded to a contending team, and, “he thought he might be headed to the Red Sox, Yankees or Astros.”

The Red Sox were never really in on Stroman, per se, although they did send top advisor Frank Wren to a July 9th game between the Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers that the 2019 All-Star was starting in, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

On Monday, in a conference call with the New York media, Stroman clarified what went down in Toronto the day before, stating, “It had nothing to do with the Mets at all,” and stemmed more from voicing his frustrations in an exit interview with the Jays.

Stroman, 28, posted a 2.96 ERA and .248 batting average against over 21 starts and 124 2/3 innings pitched with Toronto this season.

He is also good friends with Red Sox’ left-hander David Price, who joined Stroman in the Blue Jays’ rotation when he was acquired from the Tigers back in 2015.

That could very well be a reason why Stroman may have been hopeful to join Boston this year despite the bad blood he seems to have with a few notable Red Sox players, staff, and Hall of Famers.

This is all just pure speculation, though. It’s not like Stroman has come out himself and said that he wished he got traded to the Red Sox. It just never seemed like the best of fits anyway.

Red Sox Reportedly ‘Showing Active Interest’ in Blue Jays’ Ken Giles and Padres’ Kirby Yates

The Red Sox are ‘showing active interest’ in San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates and Toronto Blue Jays closer Ken Giles, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

Giles, 28, has posted a 1.64 ERA and .205 batting average against over 33 appearances and 33 innings pitched for Toronto this season. He has converted 14 out of a possible 15 save opportunities.

Set to become a free agent at the end of the 2020 season, Giles’ asking price could be quite high. In fact, it’s already been reported by TSN’s Scott Mitchell that other clubs such as the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees have reached out to the Blue Jays about a potential package deal including both Giles and All-Star right-hander Marcus Stroman.

Yates, on the other hand, also does not become a free agent until the winter of 2020/2021.

The 32-year-old All-Star owns a minuscule ERA of 1.07 and a nice batting average against of .169 over 40 appearances and 42 innings of work to go along with a National League-leading 31 saves in 33 opportunities so far in 2019.

Originally drafted by the Sox out of Kauai High School in Lihue, Hawaii back in 2005, Yates has experienced a career renaissance while with the Padres after bouncing around between the Tampa Bay Rays, Yankees, and Los Angeles Angels.

Similar to Giles, Yates is likely to come with a hefty asking price, and given the lack of quality prospects Boston has to offer, it’s not hard to imagine that other teams may be able to put together a better proposal.

According to MLB.com, the Red Sox have one top-100 prospect in the form of 19-year-old first baseman Triston Casas, who the club selected with their first pitck in last year’s amateur draft.

When Boston acquired right-hander Andrew Cashner from the Baltimore Orioles on July 13th, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that, “We’re trying to win. We have a chance to win. We know we have to play better. But also we’re trying to rebuild our system. And I think we’re getting to the point where we’re starting to get to that.”

With that, if Dombrowski has the chance to acquire either of these aforementioned relievers without Boston’s farm system taking a major hit, expect a move to be made.

Chris Sale Fans 12 over Six Innings, Rafael Devers Homers Again as Red Sox Take Series from Blue Jays with 5-0 Win

After yet again barely holding on to take a one-run contest over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, the Red Sox wrapped up their seven-game homestand Thursday with a 5-0 victory over their divisional foes to improve to 53-44 on the season.

Making his 20th start of the season and fourth against the Blue Jays for Boston in this series finale was Chris Sale, who entered Thursday having allowed 14 runs (13 earned) over 14 2/3 innings in the previous three.

Turning things around for the better this time out, the left-hander tossed six scoreless frames, scattering just two hits and two walks to go along with 12 strikeouts on the afternoon.

Right from the jump, it appeared that Sale was on his game, as he punched out the side in order in a 17-pith top of the first.

The most trouble the Florida native ran into came in the top half of the fifth, when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led things off by drawing a four-pitch walk and Brandon Drury advanced him to second on a two-out single three at-bats later.

Fortunately for Boston, Sale was able to reach back and fan Freddy Galvis on a 2-2, 96.7 MPH four-seam fastball to escape the jam.

Other than that bit of stress, Sale retired 18 of the 22 Blue Jays hitters he faced in total and capped off his stellar performance by getting Justin Smoak to softly ground out to short to put an end to the top of the sixth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (67 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his four-seamer nearly 37% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 96.7 MPH with the pitch. He also induced a game-high eight whiffs with his slider, a pitch thrown eight times while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

At long last, Sale’s streak of consecutive home starts without a win is over, as the lefty picked up his first victory at Fenway Park since July 11th of last year to improve to 4-9 on the 2019 season.

Lowering his ERA down to 4.05 on the season in the process of doing so, Sale’s next start should come Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

In relief of Sale, Marcus Walden came on in the seventh with a four-run lead to protect, and he did just that, working his way around a leadoff HBP by inducing a 6-4-3 inning-edning double play and twirling a 1-2-3 eighth.

Finally, in his second appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on July 16th, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez fanned a pair in a scoreless ninth inning to secure the shutout win for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Blue Jays left-hander Thomas Pannone, a native of Rhode Island who had faced the Sox twice this season before Thursday and had given up four runs across those appearances.

Pannone held his own for the most part to begin things in this one, limiting the Boston bats to just two hits over the first four innings.

It wasn’t until Sam Travis reached base on a one-out double in the bottom half of the fifth when the scoring started.

That being the case because. two pitches later, Sandy Leon got the Sox on the board with an RBI single back up the middle off a 1-0, 80 MPH changeup from Pannone.

A hard–fought walk drawn by Mookie Betts put runners at first and second for Rafael Devers, who came through in the prime run-scoring spot by mashing his 19th home run of the season, a 417-foot shot that had an estimated exit velocity of 109.8 MPH off the bat, per Statcast.

That blast put Boston ahead 4-0 and ultimately chased Pannone from this contest.

Fast forward to the seventh, and Mookie Betts essentially put this game on ice, greeting new Blue Jays reliever with a 418-foot solo shot to lead off the inning.

Betts’ 14th big fly of 2019 gave the Red Sox the 5-0 advantage, and that would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

From MLB Stats:

Red Sox’ 1-2-3 hitters (Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts) on Thursday: 5-for-11 with two home runs, three runs scored, and four RBI.

Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts extended their hitting streaks to 10 games on Thurday. Over that span, Betts has scored 14 runs, while Bogaerts has recorded multiple hits in his last five games.

Rafael Devers in July: .345/.419/.782 with seven home runs and 23 RBI.

Darwinzon Hernandez on Thursday: 12 pitches, eight strikes, five swings and misses, and topped out at 97.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball.

So, the Red Sox end their seven-game homestand by taking three of four from the Blue Jays. Next up, they head out for a two-city, six-game road trip before welcoming the New York Yankees into town for the first time this season.

The first stop of the road trip is Baltimore, where left-hander David Price will get the start in the opener for Boston, and fellow southpaw John Means will do the same for Baltimore.

It will be Price’s first start since all that Dennis Eckersley drama resurfaced on Wednesday, but I can’t imagine that will serve as any sort of distraction for him.

In his only start against the O’s this season back on April 14th, the 33-year-old tossed a seven-inning shutout while striking out seven to earn the win.

Over 12 career outings at Camden Yards, Price owns a lifetime 2.72 ERA and .237 batting average against in 76 total innings of work.

Means, meanwhile, was selected to be Baltimore’s lone representative in the 2019 All-Star Game.

Through 19 appearances (15 starts) this season, the 26-year-old has posted an impressive 2.94 ERA and .227 batting average against despite surrendering six earned runs over six innings in his last time out against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Three of those starts have come against the Sox, where Means is 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA over 17 total innings pitched. The Orioles are 1-2 in those games.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their third straight win.

Rafael Devers Homers, Drives in Four Runs as Red Sox Hold on to Top Blue Jays 5-4

After waiting out a 33-minute rain delay, the Red Sox bounced back from a disappointing 10-4 loss on Tuesday by barely holding on to a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday to improve to 52-44 on the season.

Making his 20th start of the season for Boston and second against Toronto was Eduardo Rodriguez, who allowed a season-high six earned runs north of the border back on May 21st.

Turning things around in this one, the left-hander yielded just two runs, both earned, on three hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts over 6 1/3 quality innings of work.

Both of those Blue Jays tallies came courtesy of the home run ball, with Teoscar Hernandez taking Rodriguez deep to center on a first-pitch, 92 MPH four-seam fastball to lead off the top half of the third, and Hernandez doing the same with one out in the fifth on another 1-1, 92 MPH heater.

Other than those two blips, Rodriguez retired 17 of the first 22 hitters he faced with the help of Jackie Bradley Jr. before running into some trouble to begin the seventh, where Cavan Biggio led things off by drawing a five-pitch walk and Justin Smoak reached on an E5 committed by Rafael Devers at third.

A simple fly out off the bat of Freddy Galvis for the first out of the inning would wind up being the last action for Rodriguez, as Hernandez was due to hit next for the Jays.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 99 (63 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler turned to his four-seamer more than 54% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing seven swings and misses and topping out at 95 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately improving to 11-4 while lowering his ERA on the year down to 4.34, the month of July has treated Rodriguez very well to this point. Over his last three starts, the Venezuela native has surrendered just four earned runs in 18 1/3 total innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.96 and not to mention a batting average against of .182 in that span as well.

Rodriguez’s next start should come on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes came on with two runners on and two outs to get in the seventh, and he officially closed the book on the starter’s night by walking Hernandez on six pitches to load the bases before fanning Danny Jansen and Eric Sogard back-to-back to escape the jam.

From there, left-hander Josh Taylor got the call for the eighth in a legitimate high-leverage situation, but all he could manage to do was serve up a one-out homer to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., cutting his team’s lead to 4-3, and put the next two men he faced in Randal Grichuk and Biggio on base with a HBP and six-pitch walk.

So, Brandon Workman entered with the potential tying run in scoring position and potential go-ahead run at first base, and he, like Barnes in the inning prior, came through with two huge punchouts to end the threat.

Finally, in the ninth, responsible for closing this thing out, Workman walked Hernandez and Danny Jansen to lead off the inning in a 5-3 game, got the first two outs in consecutive order after that, and allowed Gurriel Jr. to drive in his second run of the evening on a first-pitch, RBI single to center.

That made it a one-run contest yet again at 5-4, but, fortunately for Boston, Workman was able to rally with a seven-pitch strikeout of Grichuk to notch his fifth save of the season.

It may have taken him a season-high 45 pitches to do so, but Workman came through when it mattered to wrap up a tight 5-4 win for the Red Sox.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who entered Wednesday with a 6.22 ERA on the season while also leading the American League in walks with 58.

Brock Holt, batting out of the nine-hole, kicked off a five-run evening for Boston by coming through with two outs in the bottom of the second and ripping a line-drive RBI single to center.

An inning later, Rafael Devers put his opposite field power on display yet again, leading the third off with his 18th home run of the season off a 0-1, 88 MPH changeup from Sanchez.

In the fourth, Devers struck with his second and third RBI of the contest on a two-out, two-run double to right following base hits from Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts, giving his side the 4-1 advantage.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, after the Jays had battled their way back to make it a 4-3 contest, and the budding Devers capped off a fantastic night at the plate with a one-out, run-scoring single off Toronto closer Ken Giles to drive in Holt from second.

Holt scoring gave Devers his 70th RBI of the season, and it also gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead, which would turn out to be just enough in an eventual 5-4 victory.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

From Red Sox Stats:

From The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Rafael Devers’ July thus far: .353/.431/.765 with six home runs and 20 RBI.

Xander Bogaerts during his nine-game hitting streak: .474 (18-for-38) with three doubles, five homers, and 16 RBI.

Mookie Betts during his nine-game hitting streak: .447 (17-for-38) with one double, one triple, and six RBI.

Brock Holt’s last seven games: .611/.600/.778 with three RBI and five runs scored.

On a day that started with some unneeded drama, the Red Sox were able to come out with a win. They’ll look to wrap up the four-game set against the Blue Jays with a series victory on Thursday afternoon.

Left-hander Chris Sale is set to get the ball for Boston, while fellow southpaw Thomas Pannone will do the same for Toronto.

Sale has not had much success against the Jays this season, posting an ERA of 7.98 and batting average against of .359 in three starts against them so far, including an outing in which he gave up five runs in less than six innings pitched back on July 3rd.

Pannone, meanwhile, will likely serve as the opener for Toronto after being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo.

In 24 appearances (two starts) in 2019, the Rhode Island native owns a 6.18 ERA over 39 1/3 total innings of work.

His last big league outing before being sent down came against Boston on July 4th, where he allowed four earned runs over 4 1/3 frames of relief.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Weather could be a factor once more.

Rest in Peace, Pumpsie Green.